Saturday, 28 February 2009

Action Alert – Protest Sth Korean President - Sydney, March 4, 5.30pm

Action Alert – Protest at Dictatorial Sth Korean President visits Sydney, March 4, 5.30pm, 488 George St

President Lee Myung-bak and his ruling Grand National Party is attacking workers rights and democratic rights in South Korea

Protest at his Sydney visit - Wednesday March 4, 2009, 5.30pm-7pm

Hilton Hotel, 488 George St, Sydney

Organised by Korean Resource Centre

Contact KRC President Joon Shik Shin 0409-887-388

  • Amending Irregular Worker Law to extend the amount of time, from two years to four, that companies can employ irregular workers before having to offer them regular employment contracts

  • Amended Broadcasting Law to allow giant conglomerates and ruling party to control television

The Irregular Worker Law amendment will spread into a new social conflict. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions spokesperson Woo Moon-sook said, “We will respond with all our energy throughout February standing up to the government and the Grand National Party as they declare war on the people with legislation that goes against the people’s wishes.”

The bill to revise the Broadcasting Law, submitted by Rep. Na Kyung-won of the ruling Grand National Party to the National Assembly, is aimed at fully allowing conglomerates/chaebol, newspaper companies and news agencies to make inroads into broadcast news companies, terrestrial broadcasting companies or comprehensive broadcasting companies. Under the proposed revision, conglomerates/chaebol, newspaper companies and news agencies with up to 10 trillion won (A$10.15 billion) in assets each will be able to buy up to a 20 percent stake in a terrestrial broadcasting company and up to a 49 percent stake in a broadcast news or comprehensive broadcasting company. The ownership limit for individual shareholders would be raised to 49 percent from the current 30 percent and foreign companies would be allowed to hold up to a 20 percent stake in a broadcasting company.

The GNP’s move is aimed at changing broadcast journalism to give the GNP a monopoly over public opinion and help it gain a favorable portrayal of the party in the media, giving chaebol and the three major conservative newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and the DongA Ilbo a window of opportunity through which to enter the broadcasting industry.

The GNP has accused terrestrial broadcasters of making it impossible for the party to win the presidential elections of 1997 and 2002, which were won by liberal candidates and often cause conservative politicians to talk about the necessity of making up for a “lost decade.” If the Broadcasting Law were revised as the GNP proposes, and one of the three major conservative newspapers and a conglomerate were each to buy a 20 percent stake in a terrestrial broadcasting company, the combined share could give the two entities joint ownership of the company. Because conservative dailies virtually dominate the newspaper market, some say the combination of money and media power could obliterate the media’s function of monitoring politicians and the chaebol, especially if chaebol are allowed to own broadcasting companies.

Stop the union busting in South Korea!

`Let us rediscover Marx' -- Two talks on Michael Lebowitz's `Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class'

From Links - International Journal of Socialist Renewal, two articles on 21st Century Socialism, Marx, and the need for rebuilding working class consciousness.


By Michael A. Lebowitz

Michael Lebowitz will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit for full agenda and to book your tickets.

February 16, 2009 -- It is well known that when Karl Marx heard what people calling themselves Marxists were saying, he commented, ``all I know is that I am not a Marxist’’. It is not as well known, however, that Marx had little respect for disciples in general. A theory disintegrates, he said, when disciples try to ``explain away’’ problems in the theory -- when they engage in ``crass empiricism’’, use ``phrases in a scholastic way’’, and employ ``cunning argument’’ to support the theory. A theory disintegrates, he said, when the point of departure of the disciples is ``no longer reality’’ but the theory that the master produced.

Although Marx had in mind what had happened to the theories of Hegel and Ricardo at the hands of their disciples, the problem he detected applies to his own theory. Marx has had too many disciples -- too many people who simply repeat the theory, too many people who argue endlessly that it is correct in the form that Marx left it. These are people whose mantra is the ``two whatevers’’ -- whatever is in Capital is right, whatever is not in Capital is wrong. With a dialectical perspective, however, we recognise that what is outside Capital is essential to understand what is inside it.

I began to wonder about what was not in Capital when I was reading the Grundrisse, Marx's notebooks from 1857-8. Among other things, those rich notebooks are filled with a discussion of needs. And, indeed, Marx noted there that the contemporary power of capital is based upon the creation of new needs for workers. (Can we deny the significance of the constant generation of needs by capital, of the power that consumerism gives capital?) But, where was the discussion of the needs of workers in Capital? Further, Marx explained that he would assume that the standard of necessity of workers was given for a given time and place, but that this assumption would be removed in the book on wage labour. What book on wage labour? In the Grundrisse, Marx indicated that the book on wage labour would be one of his six books (of which Capital was only the first).

And so I began to explore the question of what happens if we remove the assumption that Marx intended to remove? What happens if we allow the standard of needs of workers, that set of needs which underlies the value of labour power, to vary? Let me tell you that it was like pulling on a loose thread. The more I pulled on this thread, the greater the implications that were revealed (and continue to be revealed). Except this is really not a good analogy. Because the theory did not unravel. On the contrary, the theory in Capital became so much more consistent with the bulk of Marx's work on politics and struggle. In short, it was more like a chemical experiment -- adding an element and producing exciting results.

Let me tell you about a few of those results in the time available to me today.

We need to recognise, for example, that Marx's Capital is a critique of the political economy of capital -- that it is an inner examination and critique of the way things look like from the perspective of capital. That book looks at things from the side of capital and not from the side of the working class. It articulates and develops the goal and impulse of capital, its drive for surplus value, but it does not articulate and develop the alternative goal, what Marx called the worker's own need for development.

Thus, we can see that there is a whole set of alternative categories which are not developed which we need to think about. The concept of productive labour introduced, for example, is productive labour for capital -- labour which produces surplus value. What is not explored is productive labour for the worker -- labour which supports the education, health and the nurturing of human beings, and which aids in the development of human capacities. The concept of wealth introduced is wealth from the perspective of capital -- an accumulation of commodities, an accumulation of money. What is not considered, though, is wealth from the perspective of workers -- the full development of their capacities, the creation of what Marx called rich human beings.

However, we do get little glimpses of that alternative political economy of which Marx spoke -- the political economy of the working class, the political economy which points to a society in which people are able to develop all their capacities. In that society, ``all means for the development of production’’ do not cripple workers and turn them into fragments of human beings, ``alienated from the intellectual potentialities of the labour process’’. That is a society in which productive forces are not infected by capital's need to divide workers; that is a society in which ``the original sources of wealth’’, human beings and nature, are not destroyed because they are only means to capital's goal.

Marx refers repeatedly to capitalism and capitalist relations as an inversion, an inversion of this alternative society. Nowhere, though, does he describe that society; rather, it is his premise. In this respect, Marx's Capital is not neutral science. Rather, Capital is filled with indignation, hatred of the system that exploits and, even worse, destroys human beings. How can we read Capital without recognising that his condemnation of capitalism is from the perspective of that inverse situation in which means of production are used to satisfy ``the worker's own need for development’’? When you recognise Marx’s understanding of real wealth as the development of human capacities, you understand the horror implied in the opening sentence of Capital, where he describes a society in which wealth appears as ``an immense collection of commodities’’.

Indeed, one of the most important findings flowing from this particular intellectual experiment is the recognition that Marx's focus upon human development and the development of human capacities is present in Capital as a spectre haunting the political economy of capital. The importance of human development is essential there just as it is in his other works. Of course, Marx does not think of human development as falling from the sky, as coming as a gift from above, or as a present for those who have been good enough to develop productive forces. Always central to his conception is that people produce themselves through their activity -- in other words, that ``simultaneous changing of circumstances and human activity or self-change’’, which he defined as ``revolutionary practice’’.

Here, then, is what I call the key link -- human development and practice. People transform themselves through their activity. The particular kind of activity in which people function within capitalism produces a particular kind of person: when you work under capital's direction for capital's goal, you are capital's product. Understand this key link, and you recognise that the full development of human capacities cannot occur without producers functioning as collective subjects under their own direction with their own goals. This concept of the key link of human development and practice, which is Marx's concept of revolutionary practice, thus points to the importance for the development of socialist human beings of democratic practices and protagonism at the level of neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces and society as a whole. It points to the necessity for the simultaneous development of socialist productive forces and socialist human beings -- that concept of which Che Guevara spoke.

Can we have the full development of human capacities without protagonism? Without democracy from below? I suggest that Karl Marx speaks to us today and that he is very relevant to the reality we face -- the task of going beyond capital and building socialism for the 21st century.

Several years ago, one of the finest Marxist theorists, Istvan Meszaros, presented a paper here in Cuba with the title, ``Marx, Our Contemporary’’. I share that idea of the contemporary relevance of Marx. Let us rediscover Marx -- not as disciples who disintegrate a theory but as followers who continue along the path that he opened.

[This was a presentation on the Cuban edition of Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class, which was delivered at the Havana Book Fair, February 16, 2009.]


Ernesto Molina: `Workers have to learn to construct a more universal space in its struggle against capital'

By Professor Ernesto Molina, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Presentation on the book, Beyond Capital: Marx’s political economy of the working class by Michael A. Lebowitz, at the 2009 Havana Book Fair.

February 16, 2009 -- The author of this book is a professor emeritus of Marxist economy and socialism at Simon Fraser University in British Colombia, Canada, where he gave classes for a little over 30 years. Currently, he is the director of the program, “Transformational practice and human development”, at the Centro Internacional Miranda, Caracas. As well as his works on Marx, methodology and theory of the crisis, he has written widely on the theory of socialist economy. He received, precisely for the book that we are presenting today, the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize for the best and most innovative work in the Marxist tradition.

In Michael Lebowitz’s book, we can identify a creative focus on the analysis of those aspects that Marx left incomplete as part of his grand plan to write six works that he was unable to finish due to the adversities of life. He was only able to partially prepare the first work – Capital – because, as is known, the final draft of volumes II and III were done by Frederick Engels.

Marx fundamentally conceived of Capital as a way to expose the enemy of the working class: capital. The merit of Michael Lebowitz resides, precisely, in his identification of another pole of analysis necessary to carry out: the struggle of the working class against capital, for which Marx proposed to write “Wage labour”.

The more capital divides workers, the more it can exploit them. Workers want time to themselves, they want to still be able to do things after work, reduce the work day and increase real salaries: that is, reduce the level of exploitation. Capitalists push in a contrary direction. That is why they introduce new technologies: to increase the level of exploitation. Technology is an instrument of class struggle. Technology is not neutral: it can be put at the service of capital or at the service of the working class.

When workers compete among themselves, it strengthens capital. If capital acts as one in the face of many unions, it is strong. If the trade union demands a lot, capital moves to another country. When unions in the North are very united, capital emigrates to the South and the situation of the workers in the North worsen, unemployment increases and salaries deteriorate. But unions in the North frequently convert themselves into complices of capital, against the unions in the South.

The greater the level of division among workers is, the lower real wages are. In Capital, Marx assumes a constant wage. He knew that the struggle meant it was not constant. The necessities of the workers grow, and that is where the power of capital resides. This idea of the role played by the necessities of workers as an arm of domination by capital is fundamental in Michael Lebowitz’s conception.

The working class has to have a strategy to raise the level of satisfaction of its growing necessities. The study of the working class, of ourselves, demands that we know how people produce themselves through their activity, through the struggle. Workers that don’t struggle belong to capital; they are faithful slaves, immoral instruments of capital, apathetic beings, non-thinking.

The struggle is also a process of production of people, of historic subjects. Capitalist productive forces are created to divide the workers.

From the theoretical-methodological point of view, Beyond Capital constitutes well what the author has used as a subtitle for the work: ``Marx’s political economy of the working class’’. It makes us think of a political economy of the working class before and after the socialist revolution.

Because the workers have to learn to construct a more universal space in its struggle against capital, when today it is assuming a character more global with new instruments of domination. This demands the bringing together of a large diversity of legitimate interests of the peoples, cultures, struggles and proposals of the social organisations in opposition to capital and all its forms of domination.

This work is of special interest for Latin America and Cuba. The social and political situation in Latin America has been defining itself further to the “left” via the resistance of the peoples through established democratic means. The Bolivarian Revolution has been pushing forward bit by bit and with great flexibility the idea of ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for Our Americas], which is converting itself into a process of legitimate integration adapted to the particular conditions of each situation, locality and country.

Not all the governments in Latin America that have taken a position in defence of national interests in the face of North American imperialism are promoting truly radical projects in defence of the grand majorities. But these alliances are possible in the face of the colossal of the North. While Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias is promoting the idea of socialism of the 21st century, reformists, non-neoliberal, or better still neostructuralist ideas, that in some way or another are also counterposing themselves to North American imperialism, are attempting to attract the efforts of the peoples to favourable changes towards a better world in the region.

Is it possible and necessary to establish alliances between revolutionary and reformist movements? Under what conditions?

Venezuela has converted itself into a very rich and diverse scenario for demonstrating:

  • the human value of inclusive social policies;

  • the protagonist role and participation of the popular sectors in testing out new development models;

  • the differences between accumulation of electoral forces and accumulation of social, citizen and political forces, and

  • also demonstrating to what point a better world is possible despite all the aggressions and mainstream media campaigns at the service of transnationals.

There is a certain relationship between the emphasis that Lebowitz gives to the importance of the subjectivity of the working class, and in general the workers, and the conception of Ernesto Che Guevara, who in the spirit of Marx’s ideas, recognised that it was not enough to just increase (productivism) the object on which socialist property rests, but also, and with more reason, it was necessary to develop the personality of the subject that exercises that property.

I’m not interested in the economic socialism without a communist moral. We fight against misery, but at the same time, we fight against alienation. One of the main objectives of Marxism is to make disappear the interest, the individual interest factor and profit factor, from psychological motivations. Marx was interested in the economic facts but also on their repercussions on people’s mind and the definitive result of this repercussion. He called it a `fact of conscience’. If the communism neglects the facts of conscience, it converts itself into a distribution method, but it will never be a revolutionary moral. [1]

It is better to build the new by building from our own strengths, and not from our weaknesses, inherited from the old regime. The new socialist moral cannot come into being if we only rely on the “old” capitalist moral, that while old, continues persisting when we initiate the transition to the new society.

Evidently, Adam Smith faithfully reflected the moral inherent to capitalist society when he wrote in The Wealth of Nations in favour of not putting trust in human solidarity, but rather in the egotistically and personal interests of each one, given that, in order to get what we want out of others, we have to demonstrate to them how much it will benefit them to do so:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages [2]

It is as if conscious cooperation without coercion between people was impossible, and effectively, this is the norm under capitalism, that is why it is so important to create, step by step, this cooperation, with the protagonism and initiative of all free and associated producers, in the community, the country, the region, with the consensus of all; starting off, with a certain level of economic coercion by the socialist state, and education, until public opinion sees as the norm that no producer (worker, peasant) escapes from work.

Capital imposes economic and extra-economic coercion on labour. Social property will progressively eliminate all types of coercion as general norms. The workers themselves within each factory and within society will each time be more capable of cooperating in a conscious manner.

But for this it is necessary to create the required favourable conditions. It would be very interesting to hear from Michael Lebowitz himself about his experiences in Venezuela at the community scale and of those factories under workers’ control that are developing there, not without some opposition and incomprehension from within the revolutionary process itself.

Lenin spoke of socialism as a society of cultured cooperativists. When we consciously cooperate, we develop relations based on solidarity, we are democratic, we accustom ourselves to listening to others, to developing initiatives, we educate ourselves and others and we self-educate ourselves, we develop our capacities, we learn to struggle in an organised manner.

And when a democratic and popular government, such as the one in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, gains access to some quotas of power, internal and external obstacles are raised by reactionary forces, so that the wealth in the hands of the state (oil) are not put at the service of the people and to avoid the ever more conscious protagonism of the workers in all spheres of society. But above all, so that the socialist project does not advance and serve as a example for the people of the region and the world

When for many it appeared that “The end of history” had arrived, that the Marxist utopia had been an impossible dream, the Cuban Revolution persisted. Latin America is assuming new colours. We are still far from having conquered all, but we continue to move forward. We salute with affection and respect this work of Michael Lebowitz, who we consider a revolutionary of ideas and action.

[Ernesto Molina Molina was a professor of economics at the University of Havana for 38 years. Since 2001, he has been professor at the Superior Institute of International Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, MINREX. He is president of the Society of Economic Thought of the National Association of Cuban Economists, ANEC, and member of the Academy of Science of Cuba’s commission on social sciences. His books include The General Theory of Keynes, a critique of bourgeois economic theory, and most recently, Economic Thought in the Cuban Nation (2007).]

[1] Un reportaje al Che en Argelia. Entrevista con Jean Daniel titulada “La profecía del Che”, citado en Ernesto Che Guevara: La Economía Socialista: debate .Editorial Nova Terra, Tamarit 191, Barcelona 11, p. 46 – 47.

[2] Adam Smith, La Riqueza de las Naciones, Barcelona, Editorial Bosch, 1983. Reproducida por la UACA, San José, 1986, Libro IV, Cap. II, Sección I, Tomo II, pag. 54.

Friday, 27 February 2009

His Excellency Comrade Robert: How Mugabe's ZANU clique rose to power

From Links:

By Stephen O’Brien

Towards the end of 1975 a movement of young radicals organised in the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) took charge of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. ZIPA’s fusion of inclusive politics, transformational vision and military aggression dealt crippling blows to the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith. However, it’s success also paved the way for a faction of conservative nationalists led by Robert Mugabe to wrest control of the liberation movement for themselves.

The fact that Mugabe, a former rural school teacher, and his cronies would become the ruling capitalist elite of Zimbabwe by crushing a movement of young Chavista-style revolutionaries doesn’t sit well with their anti-imperialist self-image.

The ZIPA cadre emerged from the wave of young people who, experiencing oppression and discrimination in Rhodesia, decided to become liberation fighters in early 1970s. Unlike many of the first generation of fighters, they volunteered to join the respective military wings of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)[i]

In 1975, key nationalist leaders -- such as Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabiginini Sithole, Jason Moyo, Herbert Chitepo, Abel Muzorewa, James Chikerema and Josiah Tongogara -- had become entangled in factional rivalry and long-running and fruitless peace talks with the Smith regime. The young recruits who would shortly form ZIPA sought to reinvigorate the struggle as the war stalled and as the old leaders became marginalised.

A group of ZANU officers based at training camps in Tanzania consulted widely among the liberation forces. They approached President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel, soon to be president of newly liberated and independent Mozambique, for support to restart the war against Smith. Both Machel and Nyerere had initially supported peace negotiations and the resulting ceasefire with Rhodesia, but by October 1975 had lost patience with the whole process, and listened with sympathy to the ideas of the young officers.

ZIPA formed

The ZANU officers also sought unity with ZAPU, the long-standing rival organisation from which ZANU had split in 1963. ZAPU agreed and in November 1975 ZIPA was formed with a combined High Command composed of equal numbers from both ZAPU and ZANU. The alliance with ZAPU disintegrated after a few months partly because ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo had continued to negotiate with Smith. Nevertheless, it was an important attempt at unity which defied the prevailing trend of division.

ZIPA’s nominal head was Rex Nhongo (later known as Solomon Mujuru he would become head of the Zimbabwe Army under Mugabe), but strategic and tactical leadership came to be held by his young deputy, Wilfred Mhanda.

Wilfred Mhanda

Mhanda had been a typical recruit to ZANU and its military wing, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He had been involved in school protests and on leaving his studies helped form a ZANU support group. Like many who were to become part of ZIPA, Mhanda had been influenced by the youth radicalisation of the 1960s. In 1971, with the special branch in pursuit, Mhanda’s group skipped the border into Botswana and joined ZANLA. He took the war name of Dzinashe Machingura. He was later sent for training in China and progressed through the ranks to became a military instructor, political commissar, commander of the Mgagao camp in Tanzania and then member of the High Command.[ii]

ZIPA theory, tactics

Theory influenced ZIPA’s tactics. Its fighters were not regarded as cannon fodder, lines of retreat and supply were secured, counter-offensives anticipated and strategic reserves made ready. Senior ZIPA commanders visited the front. ZIPA’s aims went beyond winning democracy, to the revolutionary transformation of Rhodesia’s social and economic relations. The previous conception of the old-guard nationalists had tended to regard armed struggle as a means to apply pressure for external intervention to end White minority rule.

The Zimbabwe People’s Army relocated its troops from Tanzania to Mozambique and in January 1976, 1000 guerrillas crossed into Rhodesia. The entire eastern border of Rhodesia became a war zone as the guerillas launched coordinated and well-planned attacks on mines, farms and communication routes, such as the new railway line to South Africa.

ZIPA established Wampoa College to help institute its vision and ran Marxist-inspired courses in military instruction and mass mobilisation for its fighters. It educated its cadre against the sexual abuse of women and sought to win the support of the Zimbabwean peasantry through persuasion rather than coercion.

Historian David Moore’s study of ZIPA notes: ``The students made their political education directly relevant to the struggle, so that Marxism could better direct the war of liberation.’’[iii] ZIPA’s political approach lead to it becoming known as the Vashandi, a word which means worker in the Shona language, but which, according to Mhanda, took on a broader meaning as the revolutionary front of workers, students and peasants.

Smith’s regime reeled under the offensive. Repression was intensified, ``psychopathic’’ counter-insurgency units such as the Selous Scouts were deployed, so called ``protected villages’’ intensified control over the population and raids were launched against refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Rhodesia was forced to borrow 26 helicopters from apartheid South Africa, and in order to deploy 60% more troops, increased the military call-up for whites. In his memoirs, Ken Flower, head of the Central Intelligence Organisation under Smith (and later under Mugabe), recalls that by July 1976 ``Rhodesia was beginning to lose the war.[iv]

Geneva talks

Concerned about the growing influence of the young Marxists in Zimbabwe, Henry Kissinger, the United States’ Secretary of State, sought to resume the dormant negotiations by organising a round of talks in Geneva in October 1976.

The legal basis for the talks centred around Rhodesia’s technical status as a British colony. Rhodesia had made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965, partly to quell the nascent nationalist movement and to forestall any British demand that ``legal’’ independence include guarantees for equal rights for the black majority.

Kissinger’s proposals centered around a supposed timetable for a transition to black majority rule (these days they say ``road map’’) with the intention that the talks would provide an opportunity to sideline or eliminate the radicals.

ZIPA was opposed to negotiations. On numerous occasions, especially after Portuguese colonialism collapsed in 1974 and Frelimo started to take control of Mozambique, Smith had used talks to exploit divisions and ideological confusion in the nationalists’ ranks.

ZIPA leaders were also wary of the old leadership. When Samora Machel pressed them to nominate the political leader with whom they most closely identified, in a decision which was to have fateful consequences, they nominated Robert Mugabe. In his struggle to depose the ZANU president Ndanbiginini Sithole, Mugabe was careful to identify with the guerillas, unlike Sithole who unsuccessfully attempted to place them under his control. This influenced the ZIPA leaders and they thought that, although they did not support Mugabe, they could work with him.

Disunity had long plagued the nationalist movement. When ZANU had split from ZAPU in 1963 the acrimony turned violent in the townships at a certain point and Smith’s police stood by while it took its course. Since then, guerilla revolts against what were perceived to be incompetent leaders, such as ZAPU’s March 11 Movement (1971) and ZANU’s Nhari Rebellion (1974-1975), had been brutally suppressed.

It was during the fallout from the Nhari rebellion that Herbert Chitepo, the ZANU chair, was assassinated in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. In response, Kenneth Kaunda, the Zambian president, who had hosted the liberation forces in Zambia, banned Zimbabwean nationalist organisations and detained hundred of their leaders and supporters, including Josiah Tongogara, the ZANU military commander.

However, so that they could attend the Geneva talks, these leaders were subsequently released along with Mugabe, who had also been in detention. Mugabe had fled from Rhodesia to Mozambique in April 1975 after his release from ten years in Smith’s jails to participate in an earlier round of talks. Mozambique, along with other pro-liberation states, had initially regarded Mugabe with suspicion because of his opposition to Sithole and had placed him in open detention.

Other nationalist delegates to Geneva included Nkomo and Bishop Abel Muzorewa of the Rhodesian based United African National Congress. The ZIPA commanders treated the whole Geneva negotiations with suspicion and issued a statement which declared: ``None of the Zimbabwe delegations there represents ZIPA’’.[v]

Mhanda, who was in effect the central ZIPA figure, explains that ZIPA members regarded many of the old leaders as being out of touch. They thought that leaders such as Mugabe and Nkomo, having been in jail for many years, did not fully understand changes brought about by the youth radicalisation and the Vietnam War. Where the older generation was motivated by a desire to force negotiations that would usher in ``one man one vote’’, the ZIPA comrades were ``fighting for the total transformation of the Zimbabwean society’’.[vi]

Marxist ideas

Some of the young radicals had experienced and even sought out Marxist ideas during their training. Mhanda describes the delight he and a group of comrades felt when they discovered Marxist classics in the library at their training camp in Tanzania.[vii] Making the most of the opportunity they ran study classes on Marxist-Leninist philosophy, polemics and historical materialism. In contrast, while a few of the old guard had encountered communists, and even Trotskyists in South Africa,[viii] many of them had little direct experience with Marxism. The socialist tradition in Rhodesia was fleeting. During its brief existence, the Rhodesian Communist Party had been a tiny white enclave.

Britain was anxious that the ZIPA commanders attend Geneva, and thus be away from their troops. Recent research in British archives has revealed that Britain offered an interest-free loan of £15 million to Machel’s government to ensure that the ```young men’ controlling Mugabe attended Geneva’’.[ix]

Heavily dependent on the support of Machel for access to the supply lines and infiltration routes through Mozambique, the ZIPA leadership had little choice but to attend.

In Geneva, ZIPA unsuccessfully tried to unite the various nationalist delegations. They sought to create a united front against Smith and demand that the racists unconditionally surrender power. However, the various nationalist delegations were incapable of uniting and rejected this proposal.

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Mugabe, for his part, allied with the recently released military chief Tongogara, and Solomon Mujuru. The nominal head of ZIPA, Mujuru had never really shared the strategic vision of his deputy political commissar Mhanda. He also blocked with ZAPU’s Joshua Nkomo and his deputy Jason Moyo to create the Patriotic Front. This helped strengthen Mugabe against the right (Abel Muzorewa and Ndanbiginini Sithole) and against the left, the increasingly politically independent ZIPA.

Historian David Moore has suggested that Mugabe was not really committed to the talks at Geneva as he first needed to deal with ZIPA and gain control the army before he entered serious negotiations. The talks adjourned indefinitely just before Christmas 1976.[x]

ZIPA suppressed

After the collapse of the talks, the ZIPA leaders were sidelined into undertaking solidarity duties in Europe. Mugabe, Tongogara and Mujuru rushed back to Mozambique. In January 1977, with Machel's support they started to impose their control. The radio and print media were taken over, Wampoa closed and ZIPA officers placed under arrest. When Mhanda and the rest of the ZIPA delegation returned from Geneva they were faced with a changed reality. Mhanda and other leaders who refused to be co-opted joined their comrades in prison.

Prosecution of the war took second place while Mugabe continued to impose control. Pawns, a novel about the war by Charles Samupindi, describes the new atmosphere:

The Vashandi, the young kids as …[Tongogara] …calls them, are now all safely behind bars in Frelimo prisons in Beira. But, he says, some of them are still among us. Some may be with us here at the parade. He wants to know who they are. Things are never the same again.[xi]

Until at least August 1977, there were mass denunciations, torture and beatings. Three-hundred junior Vashandi were executed.[xii]

When Machel enquired what had happened to the prosecution of the war, Mugabe was evasive and avoided Machel’s suggestion that the jailed leaders be allowed to fight.

With its most experienced commanders out of action, ZANLA failed to learn from previous lessons and Smith launched another devastating attack on the camps in Mozambique. On November 23, 1977, the ZANU base at Chimoio in Mozambique was razed leaving more than 1200 casualties.

After the suppression of the radicals, the old leaders maintained, and even stepped up, the left discourse popularised by ZIPA.

Mugabe `lays the line’

In August 1977, Mugabe felt strong enough to call a special ZANU congress and have himself appointed party president. In his congress speech, later published as ``Comrade Mugabe Lays the Line’’, Mugabe made it clear that henceforth the ``given leadership’’ was in control.[xiii]

The trappings of a personality cult started to emerge. One of his biographers writes that in his Maputo office, Mugabe’s ``subalterns …would click their heels or stamp a foot to attention when they went to see him’’.[xiv] Party documents were now embellished with the slogan ``Forward with Comrade President Robert Mugabe’’.[xv]

Undisciplined habits among ZANU apparatchiks, which had been a factor in the Nhari rebellion, re-emerged. Machel had to complain to Mugabe about the ``heavy drinking and the womanising that some senior ZANU men indulged in at the capital’s nightspots, like the Polana Hotel’’.[xvi]

Discipline weakened as the preoccupation with ``dissidents’’ meant that there was inadequate ideological and military training. Sexual abuse became common and even pro-ZANU historians mention the ``rampant raping’’ carried out by senior commanders.[xvii] During 1977 to 1979 some observers even expressed concerns that the deterioration of the guerillas’ behaviour in certain areas could cause a ``collapse of rural support’’.[xviii]

Astute leadership was especially needed when the political situation became confused. Smith took advantage of the disunity of the nationalists. He cut a deal with the conservative wing of the nationalists, represented by Ndabiginini Sithole, James Chikerema and Bishop Abel Muzorewa, to establish the puppet state of Rhodesia-Zimbabwe under nominal black majority rule.

Known as the ``internal settlement’’, the pact prolonged white domination by two more bloody years. During this time both Sithole and Muzorewa set up their own armies and fought ZANU and ZAPU, while white Rhodesians and mercenaries, especially in the Selous Scouts, massacred at will while masquerading as guerillas.

However, the weight of popular discontent, international presssure and ZANU and ZAPU’s military pressure eventually forced Smith, on behalf of the tiny white minority, to return to the negotiating table.

In December 1979, at the Lancaster House talks in Britain, Smith finally surrendered. In the elections held for the black seats the following February, ZANU won 57 seats, ZAPU 20 and Muzorewa’s United African National Council, three. While the end of white political domination was achieved, the radical transformation as conceived by ZIPA certainly wasn’t.

Origins of ZANU elitism

While ZANU formally adopted ``Marxism-Leninism-Mao TseTung thought’’ at its 1977 Chimoio Congress, this left talk ``was ultimately a disguise for classically authoritarian nationalism’’.[xix]

This orientation can be traced back to the intellectual formation of many members of the 1950s and 1960s generation of nationalists. At this time the vast mass of the people was restricted to the rural areas and had little access to education. A significant number of the first nationalists were educated at church and colonial schools which had been designed to create a tiny educated layer who would ``lead’’ the black masses on behalf of the white minority. They later found work in intellectual occupations such as teachers (Mugabe), preachers (Sithole and Muzorewa), journalists, clerks, social workers and trade union officials (Nkomo).

Many of them adopted the view that their role, and that of the black middle class, ``was to aid the government in its `civilizing’ programmes of development and industrialisation’’.[xx] This was reflected in the fact that trade union officials and the educated elite played an ambivalent role in such popular struggles as the general strike in 1948, the bus boycotts of 1956 and the mass protests which thwarted the undemocratic Anglo-Rhodesian settlement proposals of 1971.

Mugabe himself had been involved in the liberal multi-class and multi-race organisation, the Capricorn Society.[xxi] He only joined a nationalist party in 1960 when he was 36 years old, after having worked and studied abroad. Mugabe maintained his liberal contacts and could call on them to support his wife while in exile in Britain and petition the British government to grant her residency.

Despite its numerical strength, at least half a million by 1948, the organised working class did not play a central role in the later stages of the liberation struggle.[xxii] As a result, there was no significant social counterweight to the educated intellectuals who came to dominate the leadership of the struggle.

Disunity and rivalry was common among the middle-class nationalists. By the time the young ZIPA radicals arrived on the scene the divisions in the nationalist ranks were deep. Divisions existed between those who had been in jail, those who had fled into neighbouring countries to direct the guerilla war, such as Chitepo and Moyo, younger party members who had studied abroad and the generally more conservative Rhodesia-based nationalists, such as Muzorewa, who had remained ``legal’’ and largely out of jail.

Differences were reflected in questions of tactics, such as when and how to apply military pressure and to what extent outside powers be allowed to broker talks. Opposition to white rule was one of the few things that they had in common, and even that was negotiable for some.

ZANU in power

Lacking a complete military victory, and subject to pressure from their war-weary allies, in particular Mozambique and Zambia, the nationalists made significant and arguably generous concessions during the Lancaster House negotiations. Responsibility was accepted for paying the foreign debt the Smith regime had accumulated buying arms and mercenaries in contravention of UN sanctions. Even today Zimbabwe continues to accept and pay debts for which it has no moral obligation.

After independence, rather than being dismantled and transformed, the white state was merely taken over as it was. The first government included former supporters of Smith who were willing to help apply many of the same economic policies.

One of their first acts was to demobilise the ZANU committees and support groups, which had helped the party organise the rural population. The new government suppressed a spontaneous strike wave unleashed by an increasingly confident working class.

Mugabe broke the Patriotic Front, his nominal alliance with Nkomo, shortly before the 1980 election and both ZANU and ZAPU went to the vote separately. The split with ZAPU was to have dire consequences.

Ex-ZAPU members were increasingly purged from senior positions in the army and from government ministries. The army, having been retrained by British military officers, ``embraced the ideas, training, organisation and forms of force of the Rhodesian settler army’’.[xxiii] It had absolute loyalty to Mugabe above all and regardless of any constitutional and democratic considerations.

A separate brigade, the Fifth, composed exclusively of Shona speakers and ZANU veterans, was established and trained by North Korea. The Fifth Brigade was to unleash a brutal war of terror on Ndebele people, who were assumed to be ZAPU supporters and therefore dissidents. In what became known as Gukurahundi, between 1983 and 1985, at least 5000 people died in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions of Zimbabwe. At Nkomo’s funeral in 1999, Mugabe himself was to refer to the experience as a ``moment of madness’’.

A paternalistic and authoritarian state kept the popular classes in their place. Significant spending on education and health in the early years of the government was matched by corporatist trade union structures. The cities were also kept under control and thousands of urban dwellers and squatters were regularly evicted from black townships. In the rural areas land reform was forever promised but not delivered, while rural wages were kept low to subsidise cheap food, and therefore lower wages, for the cities. As one commentator observed ``poverty was structural; all the post-independence state did was ‘humanise’ it’’.[xxiv]

By 1987, with the popular classes under control, ZAPU severely weakened, the old-time allies conveniently dead or purged (Tongogara had died in an accident on the eve of independence)[xxv] and with the armed forces and police under his control, Mugabe changed the constitution and appointed himself executive president.

With an increasing orientation to international capital, the country slipped further into corruption and debt. Nonetheless, ZANU continued to pretend that it sought ``to establish a socialist society in Zimbabwe on the guidance of Marxist-Leninist principles’’.[xxvi]

People started to realise that the fruits of the liberation struggle had been appropriated. In Echoing Silences, by Alexander Kanengoni, a war veteran suffering post-traumatic stress disorder has a dream in which Chitepo and Jason Moyo are discussing how the struggle has lost its way and wondering ``how the politics, wealth and the economy of the entire country was slowly becoming synonymous with the names of less than a dozen people’’.[xxvii]

Exhausted nationalism?

The Vashandi, according to Moore, had ``hoped that full electoral freedom would enable them to mount a radical challenge to Mugabe's empty nationalism’’.[xxviii] However, the patterns and tools of political repression, established with the suppression of ZIPA, were too well entrenched to make this a possibility.

The detained ZIPA members were only released from detention in Mozambique, and allowed to return to Zimbabwe, after independence. When former ZIPAs publicly advocated unity with ZAPU, they were promptly arrested again, and only freed on the intervention of Nkomo.

Mhanda was warned that his presence in Zimbabwe was dangerous and he was obliged to spend several years studying in Europe. The ZIPA movement was effectively dispersed. In 2000, along with other ex-combatants, Mhanda helped form the Zimbabwe Liberators’ Platform to organise and fight for the rights of the country’s genuine war veterans.

Mugabe had proven to be apt in suppressing the threat from the left and employing the language of people such as Mhanda's ``to practice the worst of Third World socialism – and then the worst of Third World neo-liberalism’’[xxix] essentially to allow his cronies to enrich themselves with the ``privileges and subsidies that white exploiters had enjoyed’’.[xxx]

However, even before the end of the first decade of independence, it was clear that Mugabe’s version of patriarchal nationalism had exhausted any progressive content and the first steps towards a political break between the people and the ZANU elite were developing.

Once again it was young people, university students who had grown up under independence, supported by a new general secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai, who began to challenge the dominant system of inequality and repression and open up a new phase in Zimbabwe’s still unresolved struggle for national libereation.

[Stephen O'Brien is a member of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, a Marxist tendency within the Socialist Alliance of Australia. He writes on Zimbawean politics for Green Left Weekly.]


[i] Up until the early 1970s nationalists had to forcibly conscript Zimbabwean youth to fight against Smith. See Chung, F. (2006) Re-living the second Chirumenga. Memories from Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Stockholm: The Nordic Africa Institute in cooperation with Weaver Press, p. 77

[ii] Mhanda, W. (2007) Interview with Wilfred Mhanda by Stephen O’Brien August 2007. Harare

[iii] Moore, D. (1990) The Contradictory construction of hegemony in Zimbabwe: Politics, ideology and class in the formation of a new African State. PhD dissertation York University, Toronto. p. 335.

[iv] Flower, K. (1987) Serving secretly. An intelligence chief on record: Rhodesia into Zimbabwe 1964-1981. London: John Murray. p. 131. Flower also admits that the Selous Scouts attracted ``psychopathic killers’’, p. 124.

[v] Moore, D. (1990) p. 359

[vi] Moore, D. (1990) p. 309

[vii] Julius Nyerere, the then leader of Tanzania, had close ties to China and pursued a Tanzanian version of socialism.

[viii] For example See Nyagumbo, M. (1980) With the people. Salisbury: The Graham Company. p. 78-86 and Bhebe, N. (2004) Simon Vengai Muzenda and the struggle for and liberation of Zimbabwe. Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, p. 49-68

[ix] Moore, D. (2008) ``Todays' imperialists were those who nurtured Mugabe’’, Sunday Independent, 20 January.

[x] Moore (1990) p. 361 suggests that Mugabe deliberately stalled as Geneva as he needed to deal with ZIPA and gain control the army before he entered serious negotiations with Smith.

[xi] Samupindi, C. (1992) Pawns. Harare: Baobab Books, p. 97.

[xii] The figure of 300 executions is cited by Astrow, A. (1983) Zimbabwe, a revolution that lost its way? London; Totowa, N.J.: Zed Press, p. 107. For more information on the suppression of ZIPA see Moore (1990) p. 367 and Nhongo-Simbanegavi (2000) For Better or Worse: Women and Zanla in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle. Harare : Weaver Press, p. 102.

[xiii] Moore, D. (1990) p. 400

[xiv] Smith, D., Simpson, C., & Davies, I. (1981) Mugabe. Salisbury: Pioneer Head, p. 99

[xv] Nhongo-Simbanegavi, J. (2000) p. 202

[xvi] Smith, D., Simpson, C., & Davies, I. (1981) p. 106

[xvii] See Bhebe, N. (2004) p. 224, Chung, (2006) p. 125-128. For women’s testimonies see Musengezi, C. (Ed.) (2000) Women of resilience. The voices of women ex-combatants. Harare: Zimbabwe Women Writers and Nhongo-Simbanegavi, (2000) and Tekere, E. (2007) A lifetime of struggle. Harare: SAPES Trust, p. 94.

[xviii] Kriger, N. J. (2002) Zimbabwe’s guerilla war peasant voices. Harare : Baobab Books. p. 128.

[xix] Bond, P. (1998) Uneven Zimbabwe A study of finance, development and underdevelopment (PDF version) Trenton: Africa World Press, p. 339.

[xx] Moore, D. (1990) p. 124

[xxi] Smith, D., Simpson, C., & Davies, I. (1981) p. 18

[xxii] Low wages, import substitution industries and sanctions busting during UDI helped further develop railways, mines, light manufacturing and agricultural processing and contribute to the growth of the working class.

[xxiii] Campbell, H. (2003) Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The exhaustion of the patriarchal model of liberation. Trenton, NJ. Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press. p. 273

[xxiv] Tandon, Y. (2001) Trade unions and labour in the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. In B. Raftopolous & L. Sachikonye (Eds.) Striking back: The labour movement and the post-colonial state in Zimbabwe 1980-2000 (pp. 221-249) Harare: Weaver Press, p. 229.

[xxv] Maurice Nyagumbo, Enos Nkala and Edgar Tekere, who had supported Mugabe in deposing Sithole, all fell out with Mugabe. Tekere (2007) p. 84, a key Mugabe henchman, was to later admit that ZIPA was ``absolutely correct’’. In 1978 a group of ZANU ``radicals’’, lead by Henry Hamadziripi and Rugare Gumbo, appearing to have had second thoughts about ZIPA, unsuccessfully tried to challenge the ZANU leadership. After being sentenced to death by ZANU they were detained by Mozambique.

[xxvi] The ZANU (PF) and PF ZAPU Agreement. Appendix 1. Cited in Sibanda, E. M. (2005) The Zimbabwe African People’s Union 1961-1987. A political history of insurgency in Southern Rhodesia. Trenton: Africa World Press.

[xxvii] Kanengoni, A. (2001) Echoing silences. Harare: Boabab Books. p. 87

[xxviii] Moore, D. (2001) How Mugabe came to power. London Review of Books, 5 April, p. 23.

[xxix] Moore, D. (2001) p. 23.

[xxx] Campbell, H. (2003) p. 272.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A spectre haunts imperialism … a rebirth of the left

Protests in Iceland brought down the government.

By Kavita Krishnan

[Kavita Krishnan will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit for full agenda and to book your tickets.]

February 25, 2009 -- The people of the United States (through their vote for US President Barack Obama and ``change'') and Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi alike may have given George W. Bush (and all he stood for) the boot – but India's Congress Party wants to give Bush the Bharat Ratna![1] Congress Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, addressing the annual general meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), declared, “Give Bharat Ratna to Bush. I don't know what the rules are but I will officially do something.”

The ruling Congress Party and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government’s continued servility to Bush and the disastrous neoliberal economic model is entirely against the people’s mood – not just in India but even across the world.

It is not just radicals in the world who are recognising this mood – the imperialist establishment is taking note too. Take the recent warnings issued to the US Senate by the USA’s new director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair. In a briefing to the Senate Committee on Intelligence, he declared that the greatest threat to US security and hegemony is not the al Qaeda but the world capitalist crisis and resulting protests.

He pointed out that the "widely held perception that excesses in US financial markets and inadequate regulation were responsible has increased criticism about free-market policies, which may make it difficult to achieve long-time US objectives". The collapse of Wall Street, he added, "has increased questioning of US stewardship of the global economy and the international financial structure".

`New generation of activists'

In France, too, recent intelligence reports talk about a "new generation of activists" coming up in the wake of the global crisis, and possibly a "rebirth of the violent extreme left".

When even the US Intelligence establishment is recognising the “increased questioning of US stewardship of the global economy and the international financial structure” and the “increased criticism about free-market policies” across the globe, why is India’s ruling class stubbornly intent on taking India along the path of disaster?

All over the world, there is anger at the corporate greed and US imperialism that caused the recession – and at the governments that are making people pay for the crisis with ``austerity measures'’, job cuts and wage cuts while bailing out the corporates with billions of dollars. Governments have fallen in Iceland and Latvia, following weeks of militant protests on the streets. There are powerful ongoing mass protests in Greece, Ireland and Italy, a successful general strike in France, and student occupations of campuses like New York University and several campuses in Britain on the issue of the genocide in Gaza.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, a referendum moved by President Evo Morales for a new constitution won 60% of the vote. The new constitution expands autonomy of Bolivia’s indigenous majority, strengthens their rights over land, water and natural resources, and introduces some land reforms. These policies are totally against the grain of the neoliberal policy thrust by the ruling class in countries like India: policies of state-sponsored grab of land and water, if necessary killing indigenous people and agrarian poor people who stand in the way; privatisation of resources like water; and reversal of poorly implemented land reforms!

In Venezuela too, a referendum moved by President Hugo Chavez won 55% of the vote. The referendum was on a proposal of the Venezuelan National Assembly to allow Venezuelans the right to elect Chavez to a third six-year term after his second term ends in 2012. Its victory can be said to be a vote for the vision of socialism espoused by Chavez and his party, the UNited Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The Indian government’s policy in the wake of the economic crisis has been identical with that of all those governments in the world that are getting the boot from their people – ``austerity'' and wage and job cuts for the people, and bailouts for banks and corporations. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee at the recently held Indian Labour Conference, recommended ``austerity measures'' and wage cuts as an alternative to job cuts. The Indian government is doing all it can to bring the US-manufactured global crisis to Indian soil.

Forces of struggle against these neoliberal policies in India must do all they can to bring the global wave of resistance to Indian shores. The spectre of “rebirth of the left” and of capitalism’s severely eroded credibility fuelling struggles for revolutionary change haunts the ruling classes of the US and Europe, and India too.

That spectre reflects a very real fear. The history that was declared to have ``ended'' nearly two decades ago is coming alive – in the spirit of people all over the world who are not only hitting the streets but also picking up their copies of Marx, Engels and Lenin!

[Kavita Krishnan is an editorial board member of Liberation, central organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) -- CPI (ML) Liberation.]


1. The Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award for national service, including artistic, literary and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order".